How to Make Water Kefir

IMG 4861

Written by Stacy K, Contributing Writer

What is water kefir?

Water kefir is a lacto-fermented beverage made with water kefir grains and sugar water. It is easy (and relatively quick) to make, and provides an abundance of probiotics to improve digestive health.

Water kefir grains are not grains at all, but rather “bacteria and yeast existing in a symbiotic relationship” (as noted by Julie of Cultures for Health.) The term grains really just describes their appearance.

Because the grains feed on sugar, the resulting beverage is not overly sweet.

Water kefir is often bubbly and has a reputation for being a natural alternative to soda pop.

Is water kefir different from dairy kefir?

Yes. Water kefir grains and dairy kefir grains are two different things. Dairy kefir grains are whitish in appearance and generally clump together, they feed on lactose and grow well in milk.

Water kefir grains do not clump together, and are clear and translucent. They often take on the color of the beverage or type of sugar used in the culturing process. For example, my kefir grains have a browinsh tint due to the fact that I use sucanat in my sugar water mix.

It is possible to convert dairy kefir grains to make water kefir, but it is my understanding that they will not last as long as true water kefir grains, which will multiply indefinitely.

Where do I find water kefir grains?

If you have a friend who makes water kefir on a regular basis, chances are they will have extra grains at some point. Mine were almost doubling with each batch!

There are a number of places online to purchase water kefir grains. I bought mine from Cultures for Health and have been extremely happy with them (like I said, they were doubling with each batch. They are very healthy grains)! The Kefir Lady sells both fresh and dried kefir grains (I have not purchased from her myself as yet).

While it is possible to buy fresh grains, my preference is to get dehydrated ones (unless I were to get them from a local friend). The reason for this is that life is often hectic and fresh grains need to be dealt with immediately, while dried ones can wait until you are ready. It would be disappointing to spend money on grains only to lose them due to unforeseen circumstances surrounding their arrival in the mail!

How to rehydrate water kefir grains

When purchasing dehydrated kefir grains, they will look like this:

IMG 4680

Most grains come with instructions for rehydration, which generally involves soaking the grains in a sugar water mixture for a few days. The grains I purchased from Cultures for Health required 3 to 4 days of soaking.

To make the sugar water mixture for rehydrating dissolve 4 to 6 tablespoons of sugar in 4 cups of water and let cool to room temperature. Pour into a glass jar and add the dehydrated grains. Cover with a  tea towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Let sit until grains are plump (no longer than 5 days).

Once the grains are rehydrated, they should look like this (if you use white sugar they will have a lighter color):

IMG 4754

During the rehydration process, 2 tablespoons of dried grains plumps up to approximately 1/3 cup!

Once this process is complete you are ready to make water kefir!

How to make water kefir

Making water kefir is not an exact science.

The general idea is to dissolve sugar in water and allow the grains to ferment in this mixture for one to three days. Once fermented, remove grains and drink kefir as is, or add flavoring (in the form of fruit of juice) and allow to ferment for another day. It is during this second ferment that kefir often becomes very bubbly (but not always).

The amount of sugar, type of sugar, length of fermentation, and type of flavoring can all vary.

Here is a step-by-step of how I usually prepare water kefir:

:: In a pot, on the stove top, dissolve 1/3 cup of sugar in 1 cup of water*. Allow to cool a little then add 3 cups of water. Pour this mixture into a 1/2 gallon mason jar and add another 1 1/2 to cups of water (so the jar is filled close to the shoulder or 6 cup mark).

:: If the water is room temperature, add 1/3 cup of water kefir grains.

(Some people choose to contain the grains is a muslin tea bag, which makes removing them from the jar easy. However, I found the grains did much better when allowed to float freely.)

:: Add 4 drops of liquid minerals.
(This step is optional, but highly recommended. Water kefir grains thrive on minerals and I notice a difference when I don’t add them.)

:: Cover with a tea towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band.

:: Leave in a warm place to culture for 24 to 72 hours. The longer you leave it, the less sweet it will be (the grains eat the sugar!).

:: Taste the water kefir each day to see if the it has reached your desired level of sweetness. Once it has, strain out the grains by placing a plastic strainer over another mason jar and pouring the kefir through it:

IMG 4802

Be sure to use a plastic strainer as metal is reactive and not recommended for use with kefir grains.

Store the grains in a sugar water mix in the fridge or use them to begin a new batch of water kefir.

Once the grains have been removed, I like to do a second fermentation.

The second fermentation is a great time to add fruit (fresh or dried) or fruit juice for extra flavor. I often add a cup or so of grape or cranberry juice. (I’ll give some other options below.)

Instead of using a towel or coffee filter to cover the top, place plastic wrap over the mouth of the jar and then the lid. This will keep out the air and allow bubbles to form.

IMG 4804

Leave the water kefir covered for another 24 to 72 hours. Then strain out any fruit pieces and pour into a clean container or bottle.

Store in the fridge.

Variations

I have used the same basic method to make a larger amount of water kefir. In fact, I use the same amount of kefir grains, 1/3 cup, but dissolve 3/4 cup of sugar in 2 cups of water, then pour into a gallon size jar and fill to the shoulder with water. (I learned this from a post at GNOWFGLINS.)

It is possible to place the kefir grains directly in juice or sugar water containing dried or fresh fruit. If you have extra grains, then I would suggest experimenting with these methods, but when just starting out I highly recommend keeping the grains in sugar water only. This way they will not be compromised before you have any extra stored away.

To make fruit juice water kefir: Place 3 Tablespoons of kefir grains in 1 to 2 quarts of juice (preferably organic). Cover as directed for the first fermentation and allow to sit for 24 to 48 hours. Strain and enjoy!

Cream soda: Add 3 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract to 2 quarts of water kefir after straining.  Increase (or decrease) amount of vanilla to your taste.

Jenny of Nourished Kitchen has a lovely recipe for Lemon Ginger Kefir.

Add raisins, dried figs, or whatever takes your fancy!

IMG 4853

How to store kefir grains

If you need to take a break from making water kefir, the grains may be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks in a sugar water mixture. Dissolve a 1/2 tablespoon of sugar in a 1/2 cup of water. Cool.  Add grains and sugar water to a clean, airtight container. Keep refrigerated.

What type of sugar should I use?

I use sucanat because it is less processed than other sugars and still contains minerals, which the kefir grains love! If the sucanat flavor is too strong for your taste, try using organic sugar, or half organic sugar and half sucanat.

*A note about water

Since kefir grains love minerals, it is important to use water with a high mineral content.  Spring or well water are the best options.

If it is necessary to use tap water, remove the chlorine by boiling the it first.

Have you tried water kefir before? What is your favorite flavor combination?

my job chart 125x125This post is sponsored by My Job Chart, a FREE online, customizable job chart that is revolutionizing the way parents run their homes, and teaches kids to work hard and learn responsibility.

About Stacy Karen

Stacy, a homeschooling Mom of three, enjoys healthy, natural living and is a make-it-from-scratch maniac. She strives to encourage women to find peace and joy at home through her blog, A Delightful Home, where she shares tips and tricks for creating a happy home (and life) with God at its center.

Read Newer Post
Read Older Post

Comments

  1. Katie Kirk says:

    Thank you for sharing this detailed information! I can’t wait to try this. I am wondering if I can use coconut sugar in the process since it is a sugar that is high in minerals. Do you know if it will work as good as other sugars?

  2. Ooops. I forgot that I also wanted to thank you for this post. It was extremely helpful! Know it is an old post, but I just found it. :-) Thanks!

  3. I have recently started making nut cheeses from the book: Artisan Vegan Cheeses. The recipes start with a product called: rejuvalac. Rejuvalac is also a fermented water. It is made by sprouting a grain (I use quinoa) and then soaking the quinoa for a few days. No sugar is added.

    Obviously rejuvalac and kefir water are different. They are made differently. But I’m trying to figure out *how* they are different. Both would be water filled with bacteria, right? Would both be beneficial probiotics? Does using the water kefir grains guarantee (or encourage) a specific set of bacteria–ones that would be different from my rejuvalac?

    One of the reasons I am asking is because it is easy for me to get quinoa and I like making rejuvalac. But I also often wonder just what is really in there. I have no way of knowing. Would starting with the water kefir grains allow me to better control which bacteria I am eating?

  4. Wyntarra says:

    Meggin D, everywhere I have read about making water kefir says to absolutely not use honey in any form as it will kill your grains. Any other kind of sweetener seemed to be okay though.

  5. Meggin D says:

    I went in search of an easier water kefir recipe than the one I used for my first batch – and I found yours! So simple! My first batch was much more complicated, and had molasses in it, which I wasn’t thrilled with.
    One thing that I brought over for my first recipe was to used cooked, ground up egg shells in place of the mineral drops.
    I used unpasturized honey instead of sugar. Keeping my fingers crossed!
    Thank you for wonderfully simple instructions! :)
    -Meggin

  6. Excellent post and simple to follow – I love kefir water!

  7. I want to make coconut water kefir…the coconut water I have is pasteurized…and I can’t find water kefir grains locally, just milk kefir grains…can I use those?….do i put the grains directly in the coconut water, or ferment them in sugar water, then add them to the coconut water?

    also, could I use Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar with the mother as a starter for coconut water kefir? add it direct to coconut water?

  8. Hi Stacy,
    I’m curious, if cultured foods are a regular part of our diet, would that satisfy our need for probiotics? Do you know what kinds of good bacteria are produced in kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, etc.

  9. Hi I have been making water kefir for a couple of weeks now and they are not growing does this mean they are no good please let me know.

  10. Mary Anne Russo says:

    Can the extra kefir grains be used in any way. Does heat destroy them? Can they be added to oatmeal before eating? Thanks MAR

  11. dang, so there is alcohol in it. i wondered as i read. can’t make it. hubby almost 10 yrs recovering.

    • There isn’t!! I don’t drink at all and do water Keifer. Just don’t add any fruit to the keifer while it’s fermenting. But there is no alcohol in it! If you do a second fermentation with fruit you could produce alcohol because of the fruit. I just don’t add fruit to my fermentation process!

    • I drink it an it does not effect me. yes you can give it to your husband. Don’t; add the fruit and I add fruit to the second stage… Love it and have and will be in recovery forever.

  12. i have been making my water kefir on the bench with a layer of muslin on top but i have just been reading that it is an anaerobic substance and must be sealed on the bench with a tight fitting lid.. i look forward to your reply.. kind regards cazz

  13. Liana Mangan says:

    Do you know if it is safe to consume water kefir during pregnancy?

    • Yes, it is. Water kefir is just like drinking probiotics, and isn’t particularly detoxing or anything like that. Enjoy!

      • Liana Mangan says:

        Thank you so much! I thought that was the case, but couldn’t seem to find any certain information. I measured the alcohol content of mine and it came out to 1.3%-1.5%. I’m not worried about the small amount of alcohol, especially because I’m in my third trimester.

  14. Sherry Tejada says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! I’ve been too scared to attempt kefir making!!

    Sherry Tejada

  15. Ive been making the milk kefir and having success.
    I am now trying the water kefir. I’ve made 4 batches but I am not sure how it is supposed to taste. Mine is quite sour tasting. I threw away the first 2 batches. I really need some feedback please.

    • Hi Judy,

      From what I understand, the drink will get progressively more sour as it sits. This is because, as the grains continue to eat the sugar, they produce alcohols, CO2 and organic acids as byproducts, and the flavor sours. So, straining the grains out the first day will provide a less imbued but sweeter drink, day two might provide a stronger flavored but still sweet drink and day 3 might result in a kefir vinegar that is really useful for cooking, cleaning and even hair care, but not particularly yummy on its own. (The progress rate will be dependent on things like mineral and sugar content, temperature, etc.) So, if all the batches are coming out sour for you, it might be worth trying to strain the grains out earlier and/or playing with your mixes.

      Regards,
      Heather
      Heather

      • Ooh, Thanks so much. I’ve been tossing my kefir vinegar, after using it in cooking and not being pleased with the results. I could kick myself for not realizing I should use it for my hair. Live and Learn right!

  16. I live in NJ i have water kefir grains to share !!! marcelbahia@hotmail

    • Rocio Mendoza says:

      Hi Marce,
      I will be happy if you share same of your kefir grains with me, I live in Ocean, NJ
      please let me Know.
      Thank you.

    • Beth Grateke says:

      I would love it if you still have kefir grains you would like to share. I live in Washington, Missouri.
      Please let me know if you still have some. :) Thanks

    • Linda Thomas says:

      Hi, I would love to try water kefir. If you would like milk kefir grains I can send you some. Linda

    • Hi, I would like to try water Kefir. I have dairy Kefir to share if you are interested. Thanks, Linda

  17. Stacy, thanks for your clear description of making water kefir. Have recently gotten into making sauerkraut and had never even heard of water kefir until about a week ago. With your help, my first batch is now fermenting. The first of many batches.
    Blessings, Jean :)

  18. Sprosenberg says:

    My first batches turned out tart, but the last few have all been sweet. I read that means I’ve done something wrong, is this true, and what would that be. Is it still ok to drink Kefir water if its sweet?
    Thanks

  19. Is this similiar to kombucha? Better than? Easier to make? Thanks!

    • It has some similarities to Kombucha in that it is a fermented, probiotic beverage. I haven’t made Kombucha yet, so I can’t say if it is easier or not. I noticed Stephanie made a comment below stating that it was not much harder than Kombucha. So, I’m guessing it might be a tad more involved.

      It really is a simple process once you get the hang of it.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] drops to my paste. I use these to add minerals back into our reverse osmosis filtered water when making water kefir and I thought it would be a great addition to our toothpaste as [...]

  2. [...] breads, and anything else I might have bought in a box at the store. I eased into fermenting with water kefir, dairy kefir, and eventually sourdough. I have to admit to being afraid of making my own lacto [...]

  3. [...] brands with counts of between 50-100 billion live strains. If you’re up to making your own water kefir, kombucha, or properly fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut, this would be the ideal way to [...]

  4. [...] would be great for a picnic!11. Flower vase. Simple, quaint, beautiful.12. Making milk kefir or water kefir or coconut milk kefir.13. Storing homemade juice or iced teas in fridge. The large 1/2 gallon [...]

  5. [...] who is living a lifestyle of gluttony (whether they're overindulging in soda and onion rings or kefir and green smoothies), you do have the same obligation to confront them in love as you do if they are [...]

  6. [...] and eliminate questionable ingredients from their kitchens but aren't quite ready to make their own kefir and kombucha or to soak grains.This cookbook is full of common pantry staples and easy-to-follow [...]

  7. [...] some great info to get you started from the Healthy Home Economist, Cultures for Health, and Keeper of the Home (her [...]

  8. [...] purchasing starter cultures. Here's what they offer:Yogurt startersKefir grains (both dairy and water kefir)Sourdough startersKombucha starterButtermilk starterSoy culturesOther cultures (like sour cream, [...]

  9. [...] How to Make Water Kefir – from Keeper of the Home [...]

  10. [...] tolerate any form of dairy, kefir can be made from coconut milk, coconut water, and even just sweetened water, which will provide many of the benefits found in dairy [...]

  11. [...] tolerate any form of dairy, kefir can be made from coconut milk, coconut water, and even just sweetened water, which will provide many of the benefits found in dairy [...]

  12. [...] I just looked up water kefir and see that it is different from the kefir I drink which is milk based. Water kefir sounds GREAT !!!! I found a webstie that gives a simple how-to for anyone that might be intersted, I know I am! How to Make Water Kefir | Keeper of the Home [...]

  13. [...] so I will try to make some soon. Keeper of the Home has an amazing article on keifer here. I will post pictures of each step, and I really suggest you make it. As mentioned in the article, [...]

  14. [...] For some of us, the tantalizing breezes of summer are already wafting over our gardens.  As the days warm and the herbs in our gardens increase in size and production, there's not better time to indulge in a pitcher of iced herbal tea, or herb flavored water kefir. [...]

  15. [...] just became part of my routine. Then on to lacto-fermented veggies and condiments, creme fraiche, water kefir and [...]

  16. [...] Water Keifer from Keeper of the Home – I am so excited to try making water kefir this summer.  Sometimes a carbonated beverage (usually pop) sounds so good to me in the summer time, and this would be a much, much healthier option.  I know my kids would love it too! [...]

  17. [...] I’ve written a step-by-step tutorial explaining how to make it over at Keeper of the Home. [...]

  18. [...] this, water Kefir, I had recently found milk kefir recipes, but may try this water version first, for a sort of [...]